As part of his big reveal yesterday, gay NBA player Jason Collins explained that he chose the jersey number 98 to honor Matthew Shepard, the gay college student murdered in 1998. Shepard's parents learned of it the way the rest of the world did, through Sports Illustrated, and they tell FoxSports they were moved by the gesture. “It made me cry,” says Judy Shepard, who set up a foundation in her son's name the year he was killed. “It was really quite a tribute, and I was very honored. And I know Matt would be thrilled.”
Dad Dennis Shepard says he hopes to thank Collins in person someday. “Because, No. 1, he had the courage to come out, period, and No. 2 that he wore 98 in honor of Matt." (Collins also mentioned in SI that the Trevor Project, founded to prevent gay suicides, formed in 1998.) The Advocate notes that Collins was previously "cagey" about the jersey, joking that he picked it to make it harder on refs when they had to count off his number with their fingers after a foul. The Washington Wizards, meanwhile, say that all of the custom jerseys sold after Collins' announcement were his 98 jerseys, though the team didn't specify how many that was, reports ABC News.